Innovative Large Mobile Robot for Pioneering Research

10/01/2024

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Amon Göppert

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A Highly Flexible Industrial Robot System Opens New Possibilities for the Assembly of the Future at the WZL of the RWTH Aachen

  Copyright: © WZL Delivery of the large mobile robot on the shopfloor of the WZL

Due to changing conditions in manufacturing companies, such as increased product and variant diversity, a shortage of skilled workers and uncertain supply chains, there is a growing demand for flexible assembly systems. The Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management is actively driving research in the field of lineless mobile assembly systems (LMAS). LMAS is characterized by the abandonment of spatial and temporal rigid chaining of individual assembly systems, allowing for (partial) mobilization of production resources on a production floor following the Clean-Floor-Approach. In LMAS, autonomous mobile robots (AMR) and autonomous mobile manipulators (AMM) play a crucial role by taking over transportation tasks and in the case of AMM, even performing various assembly steps. The innovative large mobile robot of the WZL enables the flexible manipulation of heavy payloads and holds the potential to increase the productivity of manufacturing companies despite changing conditions.

A previous limitation of industrially fixed robots anchored to the ground lies in their limited workspace. In contrast, mobile manipulators provide a spatially unlimited workspace. This results in the ability to move the robot flexibly between assembly stations. This capability is of particular significance for forward-looking production since resources can be deployed more strategically based on the current utilization. The significantly increased flexibility of mobile manipulators compared to conventional robots significantly expands the application areas and addresses the limitations of rigid automation solutions. Mobile heavy-duty manipulators offer the potential to increase flexibility in assembly systems, thus representing a promising component for the assembly of the future. Mobile heavy-duty manipulators offer the potential to increase flexibility in assembly systems, thus representing a promising component for the assembly of the future.

  Large mobile robot Copyright: © WZL The large mobile robot in its new working environment

The large mobile robot was manufactured by Broetje-Automation GmbH. It can move payloads of up to 150 kg with its manipulator, a Comau NJ-165-3.0. This is likely to facilitate the flexible automation of assembly systems, especially in cases where mobile cobots (with approximately 8 kg payload) have reached their limits. Thanks to extensive and state-of-the-art sensors, the large robot can perceive its environment and operate autonomously. Through future integration into the existing 5G campus network of the 5G Industry Campus Europe, the large robot will be capable of communicating wirelessly and in real-time with other robots and factory cloud systems. The hybrid Siemens control system embedded in the large mobile robot enables control through a real-time Linux operating system. The precise actuation capabilities and high flexibility of this platform allow for efficient handling of heavy payloads and, at the same time, enable the im-plementation of flexible assembly systems across an expanded range of loads.

With this groundbreaking large robot, the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management plans to conduct research, particularly in the field of holistic motion planning. This involves executing a simultaneous movement of the manipulator with the base, which has not been achievable in the industry until now. Through holistic motion planning, mobile manipulators can be deployed in the future with 25% faster execution times. The modular software provided by Broetje-Automation GmbH based on the Robot Operating System 2 (ROS2) enables researchers at WZL to utilize the functionalities of the large robot and develop new algorithms. This opens diverse possibilities for innovative approaches in robotics and assembly research, fostering progress in production technology.

"The large robot is unique in its 5G connectivity, payload capacity, ROS control and mobility. Hence, our nickname for it is 'Snowflake.' With this, we can implement new automated assembly processes for large components and address the automation gap in the industry,"

said Dr.-Ing. Amon Göppert, Chief Engineer at the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management at WZL.